After a statement win against Connor McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers, the Kraken continue their homestand against another generational talent. Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins come to Seattle for the first time for the fourth game of a five-game road trip. There will be some familiarity on the ice as a pair of Kraken players, Brandon Tanev and Jared McCann, played for the Pens last season. Does the “revenge game” narrative come into play tonight after both players were let go by the Penguins this summer? “They didn’t want me. That’s the way I look at it.” said McCann after practice yesterday.
Opponent Spotlight – Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins started the season with injuries to both of their superstar centers, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Despite the thinner forward group, Pittsburgh managed to win enough games to stay afloat before reinforcements arrived. Now, Crosby is back and the Pens have collected points in seven of their last nine games. Hot goaltending has also been a driving force behind Pittsburgh’s success. Starting goalie Tristan Jarry has a .934 save percentage, which ranks fourth among NHL goalies (min. 10 games)
In their most recent game, the Penguins may have inadvertently changed the course of the Kraken’s biggest rivalry forever. Their 4-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday was the final nail in the coffin of Vancouver’s Jim Benning regime. A disgruntled Canucks fan threw a jersey on the ice and the next day Vancouver cleaned house, firing their GM Benning, coach Travis Green, and others. Only time will tell what long-term ramifications that game will have on hockey in the Pacific Northwest.
- Shut down Crosby – The Kraken shouldn’t have to adjust their gameplan too much from last game, where they were tasked with neutralizing Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Crosby plays the game a bit differently than those two (not as fast as McDavid or as big as Draisaitl, but elite puck skills and hockey IQ), but physical defending and disciplined positioning will still be the name of the game for the Kraken. Expect to see a lot of Carson Soucy and Jamie Oleksiak matched up against Sid.
- Net-front presence – One of the most effective ways to combat an opponent with a hot goalie is to create the kind of chances that take the goalie out of the equation entirely. That means rebounds, deflections, and shots through traffic. Generating those kind of chances will require a strong net-front presence, with multiple forwards crashing the net for rebounds.
- Keep them to the outside – The Penguins like to shoot a lot. They average 35.7 shots on goal per game, third-most in the NHL. But those shots aren’t of the highest quality, hinted at by the fact they have the ninth-lowest shooting percentage (goals/shots on goal) in the league at 9.7%. That can work in the Kraken’s favor. Seattle’s goaltending this season has done well against low-danger shots and very poorly against high-danger shots. Keep the Penguins out of the high-danger areas and their high-volume, low-quality shooting preferences should make it relatively easy on Grubauer (or Daccord).
Did You Know…
Today’s Penguins memory has a more personal connection than most I usually write about in this section. The Penguins were a big part of one of the most memorable hockey games for both halves of Emerald City Hockey. As we’ve mentioned before, Dylan grew up a Penguins fan and I grew up a Sharks fan. So when our two favorite teams met in Game 6 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, we had to find a way to go. Dylan drove five hours north, I drove an hour south, and we met in San Jose for the game. Dylan’s penguins would go on to win the game 3-1 and capture their fourth Stanley Cup. It was tough watching the team I grew up cheering for come so close only to fall short, but seeing how happy Dylan was, I wasn’t even upset. Below is a photo of the two of us at the game. (ignore my awful attempt at a playoff beard)
ECH Postgame Live
Join us after the game for ECH Postgame Live! After every Kraken game this season, RJ and Dylan will do a live postgame show on the Emerald City Hockey YouTube Channel. ECH Postgame live will include a postgame wrap-up, analysis, and a live Q&A with viewers. Join the community of Kraken fans who tune in after the game to talk Kraken hockey!